Today was the first day of school in our neck of the woods. While I mourn the passing of summer (with her promise of long lazy days, nights by the pool, adventure and breaks in the routine) I also relish the return to rhythm and routine that the school year brings. The smell of freshly sharpened pencils and brand new notebooks instills in me a sense of calm and order and new beginnings. Its an opportunity to start fresh, develop new habits and start all over again.

Last night Max and I emptied out his backpack–turned it completely upside down. We clean it out at the end of the school year, but it always seems that there are things we are not quite ready to let go of that somehow linger all summer. Sure enough, there on the floor, were the forgotten notes, cherished book, favorite pencils, stubby erasers and half eaten cookie that showed that second grade was a year well lived. We sorted out a few pencils for the pencil jar in the kitchen, put the book on the shelf and threw the rest away. We shook out whatever crumbs remained clinging and declared a fresh slate as we loaded the backpack with the new pencil box, highlighters and loose leaf paper that his teachers asked us to supply.

I think this time of year is all about just that–permission to let go of whatever is no longer needed in order to really begin again. To start anew, not at the same place but with all the years of wisdom behind us. To carry the accumulated wisdom forward without all the half eaten cookies and stubby broken erasers to weigh us down.

This weekend, I was furiously trying to organize our house to make way for our babysitting coop that uses our house as homebase during the school year. For some reason, I found myself deep into my bedroom closet. I think I had gone there in search of a hanger and decided to donate one thing to Goodwill. It’s no lie when they say that one thing leads to another because an hour and a half later I was still at it. You would be amazed at what I found was still in my closet. Not half-eaten cookies but clothes and boxes of letters and other items that should have been moved long ago. But as I put each item in the appropriate pile, I knew full well why it still lurked all dusty in my closet. I must not have been ready to let that thing go. Its OK. Its going now.

Clearing is an iterative process. I let go and create space. The spaciousness that’s created gives me courage and suddenly find I am able to let go of so much more. And so it goes, every fall, every spring, every time I need some room, every time I need a change. I let go of what no longer serves me to make room for what I need to learn.

I find that this physical tangible exercise of cleaning out my closets and emptying Max’s backpack has a momentum of its own. It’s no lie when they say one thing leads to another. Suddenly I am inspired to leave behind all sorts of things that no longer fit me: old stories, old habits, old fears, and even some old dreams I long ago outgrew.

And you my friend, what are you letting go of, so that you might begin anew? How do you prepare for the new learning that will come your way?

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